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Is a boat dealer responsible for a new engine that burned up and the manufacturer will not cover under warranty?

Bell Buckle, TN |

I work for a boat dealership and we sold a new boat and engine to a customer. The first time they used the boat, the engine burned up. He brought the boat back and the computer read the engine and the problem was not covered under the manufacturer warranty because it was operator error that caused the problems. The customer will not accept this answer and wants to sue the dealership. Do we have liability to the customer>

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Attorney answers 2


You might but there is no way to tell for sure without going over all the sales paperwork and any repair work papers too. Many dealers don't realize that when they sell a boat to a consumer they have to use "magic legal words" to avoid giving a warranty to the buyer from the dealer, even though they didn't build it. If the right words are not used in the sales contract then in most states the dealer automatically gives the buyer a four year warranty of what lawyers call "merchantability" and, if you aren't careful, maybe a warranty of fitness for use too. The implied warranty of merchantability arises automatically if the seller is a merchant who routinely sells that type of goods. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose only arises when the seller has reason to know any particular purpose for which the buyer are buying the goods and that the buyer is relying on the seller's skill or judgment to select or furnish suitable goods. Merchantability means that the product is fit for the ordinary purposes for which such a product is used. That can be confusing and figuring out if either one of those, or some other warranty, is applicable to you, well, that’s why you should talk to a lawyer. The only way to know for sure what your legal rights are is for you to talk to a local Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case (it's called contract law or sales fraud). You need to talk to a local Consumer Law attorney who deals with this kind of case (it's called "autofraud" or car sales fraud). You can go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers ( and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, You can also look for one here on Avvo under the Find a Lawyer tab. Or you can call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to a Consumer Law attorney near you. But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Consumer Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. If this answer was helpful, please give a “Vote UP” review below. And be sure to indicate the best answer to your question so we can all be sure we are being helpful. Thanks for asking and Good Luck. Ron Burdge,

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This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The law in your state may differ and your best answer will always come from a local attorney that you meet with privately. For a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers, click on this link ( and find one near you


New engines rarely "burn up." Further, you have a computer read-out which allegedly shows "operator error" - like a newbie running a brand new engine full-throttle, w/o sufficient lube, or something equally egregious.

However, the issue will turn on what the contract actually states, what you can prove and what TN provides for implied warranties.

In short, you won't know if you are liable unless and until you have an attorney review the facts.

The foregoing is for general information purposes and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Ronald Lee Burdge

Ronald Lee Burdge


Keith is absolutely right that you need to have an attorney review your situation and help you decide what your rights are what you want to do about it.

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